Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas memories

Merry Christmas morning!  Happy to say morning didn't come until 7:00.

Being patient, waiting for everything to get passed out

Surprise!  The gift you never thought you'd get!

Happy, happy, happy!

Annual monkey bread breakfast.  So bad for you, but so stinkin' yummy!

Posing in your present

What's your Wii style?  Calm and Determined?

Tongue out, controller right up to the TV?

Wild and crazy?

Gift for the littlest one

could have been for the biggest one

Love a Squinkie!

Good call on the radio kit, Hubby!

He loves the new slippers.  Perhaps he should have recieved new jammies, too.

Learning the rules about the big boy gift

Baby girl loves her gift

Delicious dinner included homegrown pork tenderloin and green beans.  It was so good, we ate it before I could get a photo.

Takin' a quiet moment to read a book

and lose a sock.  Baby foot, chubby baby hand, baby wrist full of new silly bands.   I could eat them up!

A little cookie break

Cuddling up with each other

Stockings no longer hung with care

A last look at the tree all aglow

A final glimpse into the ornaments

For everything will be packed up tomorrow. 

Disney awaits!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It just doesn't seem right

Santa is supposed to come to our house tomorrow night.  He has always come to our house on Dec. 22.  The 23rd we stay home and enjoy our day of relaxiation and fun together.  Then on the 24th we pile into the van and head home to Ohio for Christmas.

I should be in a last minute scramble to pack and get the gifts together.  The kids and I should be baking the cookies to leave out for Santa.

Not this year.  For the first time in our married lives, we will not be going home for Christmas.  We are taking the kids to Disney the first week of January, so a trip to Ohio just isn't possible. 

So instead of packing, I was able to go to a book club meeting last night.  I decided to take a dessert I've been wanting to make.  Unfortunately, the batter was so thick and sticky that it killed my hand-held mixer.  Smoke literally poured out of it.  The kids found it fascinating, but that meant I had to finish mixing the cookie portion, as well as the filling, by hand.  The consistancy is way off, but it was still pretty yummy.
I am putting a stand mixer on my Christmas wish list.

Instead of scrambling to get presents ready, I scheduled our van to get the windshield repaired.

That horizontal line you see is the crack that showed up several months ago.  I never thought about getting it fixed until I was in the van.  I would even tell myself, "Self, call the insurance company when you get into the house."  By the time I got into the house, I had way too many other things to distract me.  I never remembered.  Until our insurance guy, who happens to be the deacon at our church, saw the crack.  He harrassed my oldest child and my husband to make me get it fixed.  So I finally scheduled an appointment for people to come to my house to fix it.

Too bad it's raining. 

Normally a person would just pull his car into the garage, where the technician could get to work.  This is our garage:

Even if the van could fit in there, not the best working conditions.

We also have a large barn.  Perhaps that could work?

In the technician's words, "Um, yeah, no.  We're going to need to reschedule."

Of course, as soon as he scheduled me for Monday morning and pulled away, the rain stopped.  Not one drop has fallen since then.  Arg.

And I was so excited for it to happen today.  I am so curious to see how one relatively short man will change the windshield on a 12 passenger van.

So, I go back to not packing.  To not getting frazzled about gifts.  To not baking, 'cause I ain't makin' any more cookies without some sort of electric mixer. 

I will plan what we will eat on Christmas Day.  I will contemplate the time we will attend Mass.  I will feel a bit lonely.  I'm going to miss playing cards with my dad and grandma.  I will miss having breakfast and a few games of Scrabble with my great-aunt. 

And then on Tuesday, I will begin the we're-leaving-for-Disney-in-two-days scramble to get packed for 2 parents, 6 kids, and 2 grandmas who are taking a loooong road trip to see Mickey Mouse.

 Have a lovely day!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Creating Memories

Back when the big kids were the little kids, we would get together with our best friends for a big day of Christmas crafting.  It was always such a fun day.
Since our friends have moved away and the kids have grown, the day of crafting has gone by the wayside.  I have really been missing these kinds of days with the little boys, so I decided to do something about it.  Before I could talk myself out of it, I sent out an e-mail to a bunch of families with preschoolers and toddlers and invited them all over to decorate gingerbread houses. 

Craft day started with me getting the table ready for nine kids between the ages of 2 and 4 to decorate houses.   Each of the kids recieved a previously constructed house and a plate of decorations.
I then made a huge breakfast for my little boys in order to really fill them up and hopefully deter them from eating all of the candy decorations.

The guests arrived, the two year old brought out the mo-jo as party host, and the fun began.

The moms were in charge of putting icing on the houses wherever the kids requested.

I knew the borderline OCD three year old would get right to work decorating his house in a very orderly fashion.  He wore that hat the entire morning.  Apparantly, you can't have a Christmas party without the party hat. 

I was pleased to see that my plan had worked, and the two year old was actually decorating his house.

Some of the kids finished their houses, then moved on to decorating the plate, adding walkways and ponds.

Quick check on the two year old, and I see that he has started eating.  I encouraged him to put the M&M's on his roof, but he gave me an emphatic, "NO!" in reply.

Once he got a taste of the sugar, it was all downhill.  He finished off that entire plate of decorations, then took the few marshmallows off his house and ate those, too.

Then it was time for the frosting.

He actually spent 30 minutes scraping the frosting off of the house and licking it off of his finger.  He didn't miss the frosting on the plate either.

As soon as the frosting was gone, and he realized he couldn't scrape off the royal icing, he asked for more candy.  I refused, of course, and offered him some fruit.  In response, he picked up the plate, tilted the house toward his face, and tried to take a bite out of the roof of the house.  The rock-hard royal icing stayed true, but that didn't deter him.  He then examined the house, found the weak spot in the eave of the roof, and tore off some of the cracker.  He ate it with a smile on his face and a, "Take that!" in his eyes.  I tried really hard not to laugh, but it was next to impossible with five other moms rolling on the floor behind me.

It was a wonderful morning for both the children and their moms.  It was a fun, relaxing respite from Christmas run-around.    For me, it was a nice way to create new memories with new friends while remembering the days of long ago.

If you would like to have your own gingerbread party, here's what we used:

1.  Plain, white, sturdy paper plates
2.  Name brand graham crackers - generic ones are not straight and are a pain to use in construction
3.  Homemade royal icing - (mix 3 egg whites, 4 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp cream of tartar until firm) for construction of the houses
4.  Store-bought frosting for attaching candy
5.  Pastry bags
6.  Decorations - No hard candy, and a few non-candy to help keep the belly-aches down.  ex. pretzels, goldfish, little marshmallows, plain M&Ms, gum drops, sweet tarts, jelly beans

Use a butter knife to score the crackers then break them in order to make squares and triangles.
Use the royal icing to glue the house to the plate to avoid slide-offs.
Parents only use the pastry bags of frosting.
Construct the houses one or two days before decorating in order to let them dry and harden.
Give each child his own plate with a small amount of decorations.  You can always give more to the kids who are actually using it to decorate.
Have healthy snacks available for parents and children.
Have various activities/toys/books on hand for kids who finish earlier than the others.
With such little ones, keep the time short.  Our friends were only here for two hours.
Relax and have fun.  A perfect house made by Mom certainly ain't gonna have the memories that a plain, scraped, ripped apart house made by a two year old will.

Have a lovely, crafty day!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oh, Boys

Our boys love this time of year.  You'll never guess why, though.
It's not because we always get a ginormous bowl of chocolate dessert that lasts an entire week.

It's not because the pile of presents under the tree grows by the day.
It's not because they get to sleep in and stay in their PJ's all the live-long day.

No, it is because we move the dining room table.

We move it for the Christmas party, to make room for the guests and create a buffet.  But the boys see it as their chance for a two-week long Wrestlemania.

It's a wide-open, carpeted space for them to pile, tackle, climb, and just go crazy.

Someone will try to escape

but he is always brought back into the fold.

They wrestle so much that even the little ones know the first rule of wrestling.

The oldest's glasses must be put up before any wrestling can begin.

It is inevitable.  Someone will get hurt.

But a quick kiss from Mom and he's back in the game.

No one can tell me that there is little difference between boys and girls.

When have you ever seen a group of sisters act like this?

During these cold, rainy days, we are happy to have an outlet for all of that boyness. 

And we all feel a bit sad on the day that the table has to go back to the middle of the room.

Have a lovely, energy-filled day!